Feb. 12, on Flight Day 6, would be my second spacewalk on STS-98 Atlantis. The crew (and Bill Shepherd’s Expedition 1 crew aboard ISS) had spent the 11th hard at work in the interior of the new Destiny science lab, which we’d installed and activated on the 10th.
Bob Curbeam and I had several major tasks for this second EVA, scheduled for about six and a half hours. First, we would assist Marsha Ivins as she unberthed the PMA-2 docking port from the Z-1 truss and moved it to its new home on the front end of Destiny, where it would serve as the shuttle’s docking port.
Second, Bob and I would remove some brackets and thermal blankets from the Station’s Ku-band antenna dish, extended from the port side of the Z1 truss. The new lab contained the electronics to activate this communications link between NASA’s tracking and data relay satellites and mission control in Houston.
Third, we would install and wire up a grapple fixture on Destiny to host the Station’s new robotic Canadarm 2, due to be delivered in April. Fourth, we would unveil Destiny’s new Earth-facing science window; soon it would host a suite of spectrometers and imagers to assess the health of our home planet. Finally, we would install fittings and equipment to prepare the outside of the lab for our final EVA on the 14th.
Beamer led the way out of the airlock on EVA 2. He gathered his tools and headed off to the front of Destiny to remove a giant tarp, or thermal blanket, covering the berthing hatch there, soon to occupied by PMA-2.
Meanwhile I was up on the Z1 truss, unlocking the manual berthing latches on PMA-2 so Marsha could hoist the docking tunnel forward to that waiting hatch on Destiny.
While Marsha completed the PMA relocation, I busied myself installing thermal covers and vents on Destiny’s exterior, protecting the lab from heat loss to deep space, and enabling the science experiments soon to be installed inside to gain access to the vacuum outside.
I then had the extraordinary experience of riding on Marsha Ivins’ shuttle robot arm; I’d installed a foot restraint on the end of the arm while up on Node 1 so Marsha could carry me around like a telephone lineman on the end of a cherry picker crane. In the shot above, I’ve locked my feet into the foot restraint stirrups so my hands are free for work on installing the grapple fixture to Destiny.
Beamer and I locked the grapple fixture in place, then connected its power, data, and video cables to the lab’s wiring harness. Then it was on to opening and outfitting the Lab’s science window.
Beamer had retrieved the window cover from the airlock while I began removing the thermal blanket from outside the window, centered on the Earth-facing side of Destiny’s hull. Once Bob had bolted the window cover in place (it could be rotated open using a knob inside the lab), we removed the blanket fully and peered inside through the window. Behind those three panes of optical-quality glass were Sergei Krikalev and the rest of the ISS crew–I think our grins were even bigger than theirs.
Scenes from that window opening, shot using the 3D IMAX camera, made it into the 2002 film, “Space Station 3D,” with Beamer and me waving and smiling through the glass from outside Destiny.
On the return ride from the window to Node 1, ferried on Marsha’s shuttle robot arm, I had the space “sky crane” ride of my life, dangling weightless from the arm’s tip while she hoisted me high above Destiny. I could have taken in that view forever.
Returning from Node 1 and gliding along station handrails above Atlantis’ crew cabin, I heard Marsha on the radio: “Tom, look down!” I had to think deliberately about which way was actually “down” in the free-fall environment, but I finally glanced toward the top of the crew cabin beneath me. There was Marsha in the overhead window, gesturing with her 35mm camera.
She took a snap of me about 20 feet above her, then said, “Raise your visor.” I still had the gold-plated outer visor down, but out of direct sunlight it was OK to swing it up over my forehead. Marsha then took this shot, below, of a spacewalker on his way to his next job on the Station. Marsha, thank you! I still owe you that million bucks for this wonderful shot.
Our work on EVA 2 was nearly done. Beamer had jumped out ahead on the job of wiring up the PMA-2 docking tunnel to Destiny’s forward wiring harness, providing the docking port with data and heater connections. We stowed our tools, relocated our safety tethers near the airlock, and brought back inside an articulating portable foot restraint (that massive, gold-colored probe beneath my left elbow, above) for inspection and repair.
Time had flown outside; though it didn’t seem possible, by the time Beamer had closed the outer airlock hatch and we switched off our suits’ water cooling systems, we had spent 6 hours 50 minutes helping build the Station on this second EVA. Once again, my partner Beamer had been the smoothest of operators: never flustered, always ahead of schedule. Once again, our team in orbit and on the ground had given us every advantage, from our on-orbit choreographer Mark Polansky to our Mission Control EVA officers, Kerri Knotts and Tomas Gonzales-Torres. With their expertise always just a radio call today, this had been a superbly run EVA.
But we wanted to do one more. And on Feb. 14, 2001, we would.